Children love money. They love pretend money. The love spending money. They often love going shopping, and spending money. My children could sit for hours playing with my wallet, organizing the credit cards, IDs, and money. I think part of this fascination is that money is fundamentally a grown-up possession, and a grown-up activity. They see grown-ups with money, handling it and spending it, but are told that money isn’t a toy, and should not be played with. This, in and of itself, makes money a pretty captivating concept for kids.
There are all sorts of ways you are probably already incorporating money into your classroom. I assume you have a play cash register with different kinds of currency and a variety of ways to set up your dramatic play area that includes these items. Just as you would label items in your classroom with words, so too, can you label them with symbols. On the back of the cash register, tape a large $ sign, and reinforce the concept that this symbol stands for money (dollars). If you ever collect money for class trips or donations, be sure to put that $ symbol on the envelope or on the collection can. Be sure to tell the children that when they see that symbol, it always means money.
The symbolic representation of money – $ – is a very fundamental notion of “this means that.” As children begin making the connections between symbols and their meanings, they are developing the skills required to read and compute.